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Linguistic Capital: A Rogue Concept?

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Title: Linguistic Capital: A Rogue Concept?


1
Linguistic Capital A Rogue Concept?
  • Martyn Hammersley
  • CHDL/CREET

2
An Early Citing
  • Writing about Karl Krauss work, Kafka suggests
    that it principally consists of Yiddish German
    mauscheln? no one can mauscheln like Kraus,
    although in this German-Jewish world of writing
    hardly anyone can do anything else. It
    consists of boisterously or secretively or even
    masochistically appropriating foreign capital,
    something not earned, but stolen . This is not
    to say anything against mauscheln in itself it
    is fine. It is an organic compound of bookish
    German and pantomime. (Kafka 1929)
  • ? Anti-semitic term, one meaning of which is
    mumbling.

3
A Recent Commentary on Kafka
  • Butler (20115) refers to the long and
    curious tradition of praise for Kafkas pure
    German. She comments so although Kafka was
    certainly Czech and Jewish, it seems this is
    superseded by his written German, which is
    apparently the most pure . She notes that,
    given Angela Merkels recent announcement of the
    failure of multiculturalism, admonishing new
    immigrants for failing to speak German correctly,
    Kafka could be a model of the successful
    immigrant. Does this mean he has stolen, earned,
    or purchased the required linguistic capital?

4
Linguistic Capital as a Liminal Concept or
Boundary Object
  • It straddles the borders between the study of
    language and other disciplines, notably sociology
    and education. As Beasley-Murray remarks, it
    crosses anxiously controlled disciplinary
    borders (2000101)
  • Of course, the concept of capital comes
    originally from economics an appeal to a high
    status social science?
  • All the disciplines concerned are internally
    diverse, so potentially complex liminalities.

5
Conflict or Cooperation among Intellectual Fields?
  • It is reasonable to believe that certain
    educational problems could be handled more
    successfully if educational researchers had a
    clearer understanding of the sociolinguistic
    forces at work in schools and classrooms (Stubbs
    198323)
  • The division between linguistics and sociology
    is unfortunate and deleterious to both
    disciplines (Bourdieu in Wacquant 198947)

6
Some Problem Contexts
  • Academic literacy/literacies in the university
    differences in background result in some students
    struggling and being judged to require remedial
    help because they lack the necessary linguistic
    capital. Is this justified?
  • A meritocratic concern with social mobility
    differences in linguistic capability produce
    inequalities in educational achievement, and
    thereby in occupational destination - lack of the
    required linguistic capital causes relative
    failure?

7
The Case of Academic Literacies
  • As is increasingly common in applied
    linguistics, academic literacies breaches the
    boundaries of a number of disciplines and
    subdisciplines (e.g. sociolinguistics,
    anthropology, linguistic anthropology).
  • (Lillis and Scott 2007a3)
  • The study of academic literacies is located at
    the juncture of research/theory and strategic
    application (Lillis and Scott 2007b20).

8
Bourdieus problem context
  • How does the dominant class reproduce its
    dominant position within contemporary France?
  • It reproduces its position across generations by
    turning its wealth into cultural (including
    linguistic) capital, inherited by its children,
    who can turn this into educational credentials,
    and then cash these for lucrative occupational
    positions.
  • Furthermore, in this manner class domination is
    legitimated as the product of natural abilities
    plus effort, in other words as meritocratic.

9
Bourdieus Forms of Capital
  • Physical Symbolic
  • (i.e. financial) Social
  • Embodied Objective Institutionalised
  • Cultural Cultural Cultural
  • Capital Capital Capital
  • (Knowledge (Books, (Credentials)
  • and skills) art works, etc)

10
Bourdieu on Linguistic Capital in the University
  • Constrained to write in a badly understood
    and poorly mastered language, many students
    try to call up and reinstate the tropes, schemas
    or words which to them distinguish professorial
    language. Irrationally and irrelevantly, with an
    obstinacy that we might too easily mistake for
    servility, they seek to reproduce this discourse
    in a way which recalls the simplifications,
    corruptions and logical re-workings that
    linguists encounter in creolized languages
    (19944).

11
Linguistic Capital
  • The capacity to speak particular languages.
  • Linguistic attributes accent, dialect, etc.
  • Capability in particular language forms, oral
    and/or written, appropriate to particular
    purposes.

12
A Plethora of Capitals
  • Linguistic capital is only one of many
    phrases currently in use that distinguish
    varieties of capital.
  • These include human, material, physical,
    cultural, social, scholastic, moral, ethnic,
    gender, urban, rural, subcultural, intellectual,
    informational, scientific, bodily, and spiritual
    capital.
  • Sociologists have begun referring to virtually
    every feature of life as a form of capital
  • (Baron and Hannan 19941122)

13
Capital as a Metaphor
  • Linguistic capital and cultural capital are,
    of course, metaphors though Bourdieu denied this
    (Beasley-Murray 2000101).
  • Some of the complexities of the concept arise
    from this fact, as well as from what Lynne
    Cameron (2002) has highlighted as the two-way
    interaction between the source of a metaphor
    and its application in a new context.
  • However, even in its original disciplinary
    context the concept of capital is by no means
    straightforward in meaning.

14
A Brief History of the Concept of Capital in
Economics
  • The commercial model
  • Capital as financial resource.
  • Investment loaning finance for a future
    monetary return.
  • The production model
  • Factors of production labour, land and
    capital.
  • Investment production redirected to create
    capital rather than consumption goods, thereby
    increasing future production.

15
Human Capital
  • Human capital knowledge and skills whose
    deployment brings a future financial return
  • Individuals invest in themselves through
    acquiring knowledge and skills that can
    subsequently be cashed in the employment market.
  • Countries invest in their populations by
    providing various levels and kinds of education,
    thereby boosting their future national income.
  • Economists are preoccupied with calculating the
    rate of return on various kinds of educational
    investment, on the part of individuals and
    governments.

16
Issues
  • Land versus capital is there investment?
  • Is capital functionally specific, or is it a
    generalised means of exchange or power?
  • Can and should linguistic capital be equalised?
    If linguistic capabilities are positional goods
    (Hirsch 1977) they cannot be equalised.
  • Is linguistic capital arbitrary in value?
  • Can Linguistics, Sociology, Psychology, or any
    other academic discipline determine the value of
    particular cultures or languages, or the value of
    specific cultural or linguistic features?

17
Three Explanatory Options
  • Certain sorts of linguistic capability are
    essential
  • For particular levels of intellectual
    development cultural deprivation.
  • For the intellectual demands of those sorts of
    activity that became central as a result of
    modernisation in societies a process that may
    or may not be viewed as uniquely realising human
    ideals cultural disadvantage.
  • For high status to be awarded in terms of the
    arbitrary culture of the dominant class
    cultural domination.

18
Distinct Policy Implications
  1. Cultural deprivation Equity requires equal
    access to the linguistic capabilities required
    for high level intellectual development.
  2. Cultural disadvantage Equity requires equal
    access to the capabilities demanded by high level
    intellectual labour in modern societies.
  3. Cultural domination Equity requires equal
    representation within the education system, and
    society at large, for different cultures and for
    the linguistic capabilities associated with them.
    But socio-economic revolution required?

19
A Fundamental Ambiguity in Bourdieus work?
  • Bourdieu The only thing I share with
    neomarginalist economists are the words.
    (Waquant 198942) Not quite!
  • Is all linguistic and cultural difference
    arbitrary? In what sense? (Moore 2004454)
  • Are some kinds of linguistic and cultural
    capability of functional value? What might this
    mean?

20
A Critique of Philippe Sollers and Tel Quel
  • not literature, still less the avant-garde, but
    the imitation of literature, and of the
    avant-garde
  • the pretence of being a writer, or a
    philosopher, or a linguist, or all of those at
    once, without being any of them or knowing
    anything about all that
  • when one knows the tune of culture but not the
    words, when one only knows how to mimic the
    gestures of the great writer
  • (Bourdieu 199811-12)

21
Bourdieus Own Use of Linguistic Capital
  • Bourdieus discursive style can be
    interpreted as a strategy designed to bolster
    his own academic distinction
  • Idiosyncratic usages and neologisms allied to
    frequently repetitive, long sentences with a
    host of sub-clauses, discursive detours
  • The same linguistic and presentational devices
    which he identifies in academic discourse in
    general are conspicuously present in his own
    work (Jenkins 1992pp169, 9, and 171)

22
A Proposed Solution
  • Sociology, linguistics, sociolinguistics,
    psychology, etc are academic disciplines
    concerned with describing and explaining. They
    can document disparities between varieties of
    language used within and outside of educational
    institutions the consequences of variations in
    linguistic repertoire and perhaps even the
    effects on the acquisition of particular
    socio-cognitive skills. But they cannot
    legitimately go beyond this to evaluate
    linguistic varieties as superior/inferior, nor
    even declare them to be of equal value.

23
More Generally
  • Academic disciplines cannot claim authority in
    making evaluations of the phenomena they study.
    In other words, they cannot provide a practical
    perspective on the world, political or otherwise,
    not even a critique.
  • Nor should they portray evaluation as
    arbitrary.
  • They must suspend any interest in making
    value-judgments about the phenomena they study,
    and use values only so as to determine what is
    worth investigating and what is relevant to an
    investigation.

24
Coda
  • This does not mean that academic disciplines can,
    or should attempt to be, value-free in some
    absolute sense. Indeed, they cannot operate
    without researchers making evaluative judgments
    about how best to pursue them, including about
    better and worse linguistic forms in writing
    research reports.
  • Indeed, it is in precisely these terms that I
    have been evaluating the concept of linguistic
    capital, and the metaphorical use of the notion
    of capital more generally.

25
Bibliography
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26
Bibliography Continued
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27
Bibliography Continued
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